In the grip of the beast: snow in north-west Kent

Little gets the south-east England as excited as the prospect of a bit of snow. It is fairly unusual, particularly in the London suburbs, so the ‘Beast from the East’ has real novelty value. The hills of the North Downs regularly get a lot more snow than the local London boroughs, however, so if you fancy a good old crunching snow walk, with scenes reminiscent of a winter’s day in Finland, hot foot it out to the walks on this website – even if your part of the metropolis has drawn a blank. Below are pictures from previous years, but I reckon this period will see much deeper snow – until a thaw sets in at the weekend.

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Right now the heavy snow showers seem to be slanting across the area north-east to south-west in a line. They are making landfall between the Isle of Sheppey and Margate and dumping the white stuff on Canterbury, Ashford, Maidstone and Sevenoaks. Places further north and west, like Bromley and Lewisham are not seeing anything like as much. Late on Thursday a different weather system will swing up from the south and may deposit several inches of wetter snow across the western parts of Kent particularly, including London.

Not being able to get out and photograph it all is a bit frustrating for me but the best hills for sledging are on the Shoreham circular and Romney St walks. One Tree Hill and Ightam Mote have thick snow but getting a car out there might be a problem. Knole Park should be easy to reach though and would be great.

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Let it snow and let peregrines unexpectedly appear

Some of this winter’s coldest weather has breezed in from the north east. It’s brought snow flurries, few of which have penetrated as far west as London but have deposited a few centimetres on the Greensand Ridge south of Sevenoaks, and along the North Downs towards Maidstone.

I was rather taken by the scene yesterday morning at 9am while cycling from my home in Lower Sydenham to the railway station. As I crossed Perry Hill in bright sunshine, flakes of snow suddenly intensified into a bit of a mini-blizzard, seemingly out of a blue sky. I looked around and saw it was being blown in from a dark cloud to the north. Just at that moment I heard the ‘cawing’ of a crow and saw to my astonishment a peregrine falcon clutching a small bird in its talons wheel away to the south, beating its wings rapidly, as two irate crows followed in lukewarm pursuit. An unusual thing to see in Sydenham, while it snowed – from a blue sky.

Anyway, proof that snow still happens south of London is provided by Ightam Mote’s Twitter feed. (Walk to Ightam Mote from One Tree Hill.)

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Downe in winter snow

Awful weather this week – overcast, cold – but at least there was some snow today to enliven proceedings. I decided to get some fresh air on the Downe walk. In south-east London the snowfall didn’t stick whatsoever but by the time I reached Keston there were extensive patches. Below are some iPhone images of the Downe circular walk taken sequentially. I nipped off-piste down to the golf course after point 5 – the unblemished snow on the fairway made me feel as if I were walking on goose feathers; the powder had a strangely translucent appearance I’d never seen in snow before. Popped into the Queen’s Head where a half of Westerham Ales’ Grasshopper by the fire, with Italy v Ireland rugby on the telly, was a splendid ‘warm down’. Once again, a rotten day for weather comes up trumps (whoops, sorry, banned word there).

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